Skip to main content

South Sudanese refugee Gabriel Akon making a difference through hip-hop music

Gabriel Akon
Gabriel Akon fled war-torn Sudan when he was 10 years old.

ABC News

South Sudanese refugee Gabriel Akon wants to rap his way into the hearts of East Africans, as he dreams of setting up a recording studio for local artists in Adelaide.

But he has to crawl before he can walk and is busy establishing himself as an artist on the Australian hip-hop scene.

Akon fled from war-torn Sudan with his family as a baby and finally made it to Australia as a 10-year-old in 2004.

He soon realised mastering the English language and getting into music would help him survive and prosper.

The 22-year-old, who goes by the stage name DyspOra, said hip-hop could help him make a difference, in Australia and later East Africa.

"I want to be a catalyst for a conscious revolution so people really ... start thinking and living different," he said.

Independent record label established for local artists

Akon has established the Playback 808 online record label with fellow performer Emmanuel Deng, or Eman.

Playback 808
Playback 808 is an online record label that has helped several immigrants now living in South Australia.

Supplied: Gabriel Akon

The label has helped several immigrants, as well as other aspiring performers, to make waves in the state.

"[We're] very blessed, we started off with a guitar hero-like plug-in USB mic and now actually ... have a studio, access to engineers, producers, it's a blessing how far we've actually come," Deng said.

The crew's youngest performer is 17-year-old Samuel Elkhier, who has just released his first video and credits his development to Akon and others in the Playback 808 crew.

"It's a chance to learn, I feel like we learn from each other, so it's a good way for me learning things about the music industry, since they've been in it longer than me," Elkhier said.

Bright future in music for Akon

Akon has been mentored by Thomas Gordon at Music SA, where he has been studying for the past year.

Gordon can see a bright future for him.

"There's a lot more African immigrants that are now breaking into the hip-hop scene in Australia as a whole," he said.

Akon and the rest of his Playback 808 crew will get major exposure when they play at one of the night-time concerts at the Adelaide V8 car race in March.